Leading up to the Zebra Music Festival, we'll be featuring some of the players in Chengdu's music scene. In this post we look at some of the city's freelance DJs, many of whom will be playing on the Xiongmao stage at the festival.
An earlier version of this article was originally published in CHENGDOO citylife, issue 18 ("Nightlife").
To a large extent, they control the vibe at the party. But is a DJ just an alcoholic MP3 player? We've asked some of Chengdu's freelance DJs to answer our annoying questions.
DJ Andy Mac at United Colours of Music. Photo by Leo Chen.
Andy McAuley, 27 (Scotland)
What do you usually play? Various styles of electronic music
In Chengdu 1 year
Influences Dave Clarke, Modeselektor, James Holden. My older brother was probably the biggest influence on my musical taste.
Most embarrassing DJ moment Taking the needle off the wrong record, banging the tone arm across a record, ejecting the wrong CD, etc. My laptop has been freezing up recently causing the music to cut out during gigs. It's not my fault, it's my laptop, honest!
What smack do people talk about you behind your back? I don't know. Maybe they call me a fat bastard with a shite taste in music.
What is the difference between a DJ and an MP3 player? A brain maybe? I guess in some cases there really is no difference. Digital DJ software has made it far too easy to be a DJ now and people aren't as willing to put in the time to learn how to beat match and mix properly.
Can a DJ save lives? Not really, unless the DJ knew first aid.
Do you have DJ groupies? A gentleman would never tell.
What keeps you from quitting being a DJ? Free alcohol.
DJ Andy Mac plays Thursdays in Xiongmao
Charlie, 26 (Washington, D.C.)
What do you usually play? Hip hop, electronic music
In Chengdu almost four years
Influences A Tribe Called Quest, Pink Floyd, old Metallica, James Brown, Beck, LTJ Bukem, Y Society, Passai, Santogold, Crookers, Kid Loco
Most embarrassing DJ moment I picked up the needle on the wrong record once like five or six years ago but that happens to almost all vinyl DJs. Having computers fail in one way or another in the middle of a DJ set isn't too uncommon.
The difference between a DJ and an MP3 player is an MP3 player is predictable.
Can a DJ save lives? Sure. A skilled DJ in front of a big crowd can be a powerful, mind-blowing experience.
Do you have groupies from DJing? Young people all across China are waiting for something interesting and different to come to their city. I always bring free mix CDs to my gigs and maintain contact with some of the people I meet. I have like 200+ friends on QQ.
Least favorite request "The birthday song" by 50 Cent
Marco aka Dutsie Wilde, 29 (Holland)
What do you usually play? Tech-house, techno, minimal
In Chengdu almost 8 years on and off
Least favorite Chengdu venue to play I like the venues I play. I wouldn't want to call any of my venues the least favorite.
Most embarrassing DJ moment I was playing a street rave in the centre of Amsterdam with my friends and then suddenly the generator ran out of fuel! This made the sound system shut down and everybody stopped dancing—lucky enough we had extra fuel to fill up the generator again.
What do people say about your DJing behind your back? I'd rather have a DJ talk about the nicest things they've heard—I like the positive side.
What is the difference between a DJ and an MP3 player? A DJ doesn't need batteries, an MP3 player does.
Can a DJ save lives, like in the song? It's just a song.
Three songs you would never play I wouldn't know which three songs I'd never play—why don't you ask me my three favorite songs I like to play most?
DJ Dutsie Wilde plays Thursday nights at Xiongmao
DJ Wu, 23 (Chengdu)
What do you usually play? Hip hop, funk, jazz reggae breakbeat bmore gtech electro Techno house rock
Influences Stonesthrow Records, Qbert D-styles, Cash Money, Jazzy Jeff
Most embarrassing DJ moment My first gig. My hands wouldn't stop shaking.
What do people say about your DJing behind your back? I wish I knew!
Can a DJ save lives? Why not?
Do you have DJ groupies? Yeah! Trans4mer DJs.
Three songs you would never play "Sha la la," "Country Road," "Tuziwu"
DJ Wu plays at Mix Club on Saturday nights.
Rachel Vanessa Mamoni akaMiss Mixit akaElektra Kute (London)
What do you usually play? Electro, house, breakbeat, anything funky and bassy that makes you wanna shake your booty
In Chengdu since February 2006
Influences Masters at Work, Darren Emerson, Smokin Jo, Sandy Riviera, my flatmate JJ, Madonna
What makes a good party? When someone takes their clothes off and goes crazy on a speaker!
What's the difference between a DJ and an MP3 player? An MP3 player has no ego.
Can a DJ save lives? The power of music can heal and change a person's destiny, so why not save your life? I have had many life changing moments through music, and I never underestimate the power of frequency or lyrics.
Do you have DJ groupies? I have many fans here and in London also, I used to have a pirate radio show in the UK and had lots of followers.
What song would you never play? If I had to choose a music I don't particularly like, I would say trance.
What keeps you from quitting? The freedom it gives me, the joy it brings me. Maybe when I have a child I will stop as no one wants a pregnant DJ behind the decks!
Learn more about Miss Mixit and listen to samples here and here.
Julien, 28 (France)
What do you usually play? Electrohouse, hip hop, funk
In Chengdu 15 months
Influences Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal, Nina Simone, Herbie Hancock, Jurassic 5, The Roots, the label Ninja Tunes, DJ Vadim, DJ Shadow, Breakestra, Nino Ferrer
Most embarrassing DJ moment It was my first time playing for this particular club. When it was time to play, I had to cross the very crowded dance floor. There was a stair that I didn't see. I tripped on it and in an attempt to not fall down, I grabbed onto some people. It wasn't enough. My CD player opened up on the floor, releasing its precious contents. I picked them up and my headphones with the help of some perplexed and amused Chinese people. Then I went to the podium in front of the dance floor with all the people staring at me, wondering if I was a joke. I started to play, a little bit anxious, as usual, and after the first mix, I completely forgot it.
You would never play Any song with a guy howling the same insane shit for the whole song: Hélène. ("Je m'appelle Héléne").
Julien is also a photographer.
What do you usually play? Minimal techno
In Chengdu 6 years
Most embarrassing DJ moment When nobody's dancing
What's the difference between a DJ and an MP3 player? DJs can control people. People can control MP3 players.
What would you never play? Pop music
DJ Geezer plays Xiongmao, Panam(e), and Hemp House regularly
DJ Joe at United Colours of Music. Photo by Leo Chen.
DJ Joe, 28 (Germany)
What do you usually play? Dubstep, drum'n'bass, elektrodub, glitchy jungle, Latin
In Chengdu half a decade
Influences Richard D. James, Karl Heinz Stockhausen, Trevor Pearcey, KLF, free jazz, Helge Schneider, Latin music
What makes a good party? The moment you have this sense of belonging through sound and surroundings.
Least favorite Chengdu venue to play Why don't you ask me interesting questions, like what I usually have for breakfast?
Most embarrassing DJ moment Playing in front of nobody and getting paid, or worse not even getting paid and packing up your broken equipment after getting beaten up by strangers. Once I was booked for New Year's or Christmas, and I brought a whole crowd with me, and then the boss wouldn't let me play.
What smack do people talk about you behind your back? I don't possess anything to be jealous of, other than my new hairstyle.
What is the difference between a DJ and an MP3 player? A DJ is more expensive. MP3 players can play longer and you can adjust the volume. They are more fancy; they come in all kinds of shapes and colors; you can turn them off or fast forward. Actually I don't know because I don't have a MP3 player.
Can a DJ save lives? Nobody talks about the DJs who destroyed other people's lives.
You'd never play "As Slow As Possible" by John Cage. It would take too long.
Marty Be, 29 (Germany)
What do you usually play? All kinds of electronic-influenced productions/remixes
In Chengdu in total 1 1/2 years
Influences Girl Talk, Modeselektor, Otto von Schirach, Ed Banger Records, Cassette Boy, John Peel, Mr. Bungle
Most embarrassing DJ moment My first set in a Chinese club and first set with CDs. I spent two weeks sorting all the cheesiest music I had. I played two tracks and then a dangerous-looking evil man (the manager?) came up to me and commanded, "Play something slower!" So I decreased the speed gradually by 12 percent, thinking it was funny. It wasn't.
What do people say about your DJing behind your back? "He has no idea what he's doing."
Can a DJ save lives? Some DJs make me suicidal.
Do you have groupies from DJing? One.
What are three songs you would never play? I play everything that anyone requests, but if I don't like it I can fuck it up really bad.
What keeps you from quitting? The power.
DJ Marty Be plays Wednesdays in Xiongmao
Michael aka DJ Ozone and The Antidote founder (San Francisco)
Musical influences I started getting involved as a radio DJ in California. I got into early house and techno, post-punk and indie rock. I have mad eclectic tastes. I've done radio shows with everything from jazz and classical to country western and experimental music. These days I'm really into dubstep and electro-punk.
Most embarrassing DJ moment I scored this gig in Beijing two years ago, playing at the Huayi Brothers anniversary party. I was on stage with Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Zhou Xun, etc. I had to wear a suit. I showed up, and they had no DJ gear—nothing at all. So we plugged in my laptop and I played one song, and my soundcard blew up. So I quickly grabbed one of my demo mix CDs and told the sound guy to put it on while I fake DJed on the stage. It was going well for 20 minutes when the sound guy ejected the CD and put it back in, and the mix started from the beginning. That totally sucked, but Zhou Xun came up after and said she liked my music.
What smack do people talk about you behind your back? They say I'm a good guy, polite, caring, and doing "good stuff."
What is the difference between a DJ and an MP3 player? The DJ is drunk, hopefully.
Can a DJ save lives? Hell yeah. I save lives every time.
Do you have DJ groupies? I have a stalker. It's really creepy. Shows up in every city. She'll probably be at the Chengdu gig also.
What request would you never play? I don't take requests. OK, once I did, for MC Hammer, 'cause the guy was holding a gun.
DJ Ozone plays weekly in Shanghai and tours other cities across the country. Along with B6 he brought the Antidote party to Chengdu last December 12 @ Xiongmao
For the complete lineup and schedule of Zebra Music Festival DJs, go here.